Posts Tagged ‘Lutheran Deaconess Association’

Receiving Others as Gifts

Gracious God, who created all humanity in your image:
Make us grateful for the companionship of other people, receiving them as gifts of your grace.

The Deaconess Litany of the Lutheran Deaconess Association

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve written a few posts in the past drawing from the Deaconess Litany of my Deaconess community. It is an extended prayer that we traditionally pray on Monday nights. The remarkable thing about well-written prayers like this is the way they can work into our hearts and minds and actually be a part of forming us as God’s people.

20131206-163719.jpgThe portion of the litany quoted above has been just such a formational prayer for me. This idea of receiving others as gifts of God’s grace has worked its way into the very fabric of my being. I want to share with you a few of implications of this that have emerged for me and one reservation I have about it:

  1. Receiving others as gifts of grace means that we don’t take them for granted. Gifts are not things to which we are entitled, in fact, they are often unmerited and unexpected. Approaching our relationships in this way leaves us open to the ways that others can surprise us.
  2. Receiving others as gifts doesn’t have to mean we “like” everything they do or say. Just as we coach children to say “thank you” when they get a gift from a loved one whether they like it or not, so we too can graciously receive other people in our lives.
  3. Receiving others as gifts of God signals that they are holy others as they are from our divine creator. The sacredness with which we hold their lives and the honor we show them are necessitated by the reality that they are God’s.
  4. One reservation that I have about this prayer is the potential of the “gift” analogy to be taken too literally, as if others are mere objects. (See my previous post about teaching children that people are not objects.)

This idea of receiving others as a gift is emerging for a theme for me as I live out my faith. I’m still processing all of this, but I’m seeing connections among the types of books and ministries to which I have been drawn over the years and it seems to come back again and again to this idea. I hope to be able to write more about this as time goes on.

For now, please know that you are a gift to me. Thank you for reading!

Please connect with me either in the comments below, by e-mail at livingfaithjct (AT) gmail (DOT) com or on Facebook or Twitter (see the green buttons on the page); I love hearing from you!

Read other posts of mine about others as gifts:

The More Different We Are, The More We Need Each Other

Shutdown as Opportunity

Why I Love Conferences Even Though I’m an Introvert

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I’m a certified introvert–one of those people that draws energy and strength from time alone to think and process. I’ve taken the Jung Type personality tests numerous times and have flip-flopped on everything else except introversion. With all my need for alone time it always surprises me how much I love conferences. But I do! I’ve been thinking about why and here is what I’ve come up with.

Expanding my world of ideas

A common description of introverts says that we like to spend time in our “inner world of ideas.” And that is very true of me. I can be in a crowd of people and be totally withdrawn into my own thought-world. If someone says my name, I’ll come back to the group. If you need me, you will have my undivided attention. But if you don’t need me right now I’ll just be here in my head.

The thing about a conference is that it feeds this inner world of mine. New ideas from keynotes and workshops get added into my own mix of thoughts. I think pretty good thoughts on my own, but I think even better thoughts when my brain has more tumbling around up there. The talks I go to at conferences energize my introverted self because they give me more to think about.

One-on-one conversations

Another thing about introverts is we tend to be more comfortable interpersonally with one-on-one connections. Having gobs of people together in one place can be a bit overwhelming (see above about withdrawing into my inner world). This in itself can be reason enough for many introverts to avoid conferences altogether.

I don’t let that sea of people scare me away though. Instead, when I go to a conference I like to carve out time for deeper, more intimate, conversations. Sometimes this means talking with my husband about what I’m learning. But oftentimes I find one or two other participants that I can talk with about what we’re thinking about, what life is like these days, or how we’ve been growing in our faith. By nurturing one-on-one connections at a conference, my introvert friendship needs are wonderfully met.

The rule of two feet

Even though my inner-world of ideas and my intimate friendships can be nourished at conferences, there are times when the whole thing gets to be a little too much for me. Sometimes my brain is too full for just one more remix of “let’s all say where we’re from and what we do and who we came with and why we’re here and what we really, really love about being here.” Sometimes I just can’t do another thing with another human being.

When I feel like that I exercise what my Deaconess sisters refer to as “The Rule of Two Feet.” We have this understanding among us at our Deaconess annual meeting that if a given scheduled activity is too much, or if you are just too tired and need a nap and you can’t come to every, every thing it is okay. We trust your “two feet” to take you where you need to be throughout the event. Even though other conferences don’t state an official two-feet rule, I find that my ability to appreciate any conference is enhanced by respecting my two-feet.

True to type?

While it may not make sense on the surface that a confirmed introvert could be so exuberant about a conference, it works for me. In fact, paying attention to my introvert needs is what makes a conference so great for me. I don’t speak for all introverts because their experience could be very different from mine. I’m simply sharing what works for me and why I love conferences.

What about you? How do you feel about conferences? How does your personality influence how you participate in large group events?

A Teacher Who Saw My Heart for Justice

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Today’s tribute is about Mrs. Winegarden who was my 10th grade English teacher. Mrs. Winegarden lost her battle with cancer a number of years ago, but I have held her in my heart all these years.

Mrs. Winegarden required us to keep a journal. She read all the entries as the year went along and commented from time to time. At the end of the year she made a career prediction for each of us and wrote it in our journals.

Mrs. Winegarden’s prediction for me was:

I see you as a zealous ACLU lawyer!

I had written throughout the year about my faith in Jesus, about mountaintop youth group events, and even about my sense that I was called into ministry. I was sure that Mrs. Winegarden would affirm church-related ministry as my vocation. But she didn’t.

When I asked Mrs. Winegarden about it she said that in all my writing throughout the year I frequently wrote about “standing up for the underdog.” She noted that I was outspoken about things like discrimination and respect for all people. She said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if that became a centerpiece in my vocation.

While I still don’t think I’m destined for a legal career, I think she was right in some way.

In that class I wrote a paper about “ageism” and how children are often disrespected or mistreated just because they are young. Even then I was forming my attitudes about the kind of mother I would be. Today, as a mom I favor positive discipline and non-punitive parenting.

In a single journal entry I lamented abortion and capital punishment. Back then I was already forming an ethic that included respect for the unborn as well as dignity for convicted criminals. Nowadays I continue to scratch my head when someone affirms one but not the other.

I wrote in that 10th grade journal about the evils of racism, how bad stereotypes are, and my greatest ambition being to make the world a more loving place. It all sounds so idealistic now, think Jackie DeShannon’s “What the world needs now is love,” but Mrs. Winegarden was right that these types of concerns have been a big part of who I am.

Even in choosing to be a Deaconess, one of the hallmarks of Deaconess ministry is what we refer to as a “bias for the broken.” This means we pay particular attention to what Matthew 25:40 calls “the least of these” or what Mrs. Winegarden referred to as “standing up for the underdog.”

Maybe I’m too much on the fence to be a lawyer battling over rights like the ACLU does. I tend to look for quieter ways to make a difference, even if it is just one person at a time. But it means so much to me that Mrs. Winegarden saw that passion in me back then. I thank God for her insight into my future.

How I Became a Deaconess

20130319-043432.jpgBeginning in my ‘tweens, once a month members of my Lutheran congregation on the hill would lovingly cook a big meal and drive from our little suburb to the big city of Columbus, Ohio. We served the patrons of Faith Mission, a homeless shelter in the inner city. The cooking part was fun, but I especially loved interacting with the patrons and seeing “the hungry” as real people.

During my Junior year of high school that same Lutheran congregation gave me the opportunity to teach a 3rd & 4th grade Sunday school class. I loved opening up God’s Word with them and talking together about it in ways that made it come alive. I particularly remember teaching about Noah and the big flood shortly after our suburb had some major flooding.

I cherished these experiences in my church growing up and as early as middle school, I knew I wanted to be in ministry somehow. I knew I was dearly loved by God and my church family and I wanted to spread that love to others. I wanted to be always a part of what God was doing in and through the church.

I felt called by the Holy Spirit into a life of ministry.

There was only one problem, the only ministry role I knew of was that of pastor. I didn’t want to be a pastor and I didn’t feel that was my calling exactly.

My vision was to study Lutheran theology and church-work on an undergraduate level. Then I would go serve in a congregation.

I wanted to partner with people to reach out beyond the church walls (like I had done at Faith Mission). I wanted to share God’s word with people in Bible classes and informal conversations, encouraging them in their faith.

When it came time to choose a college I looked for something like a theology major or a non-pastor, church-worker study program. The Lutheran colleges I looked at during that time had nothing of the sort.

I drifted for a while, starting college with no clear plan for a major or career path. After my first year of college in Kentucky, I married a pastor and moved to Indiana where he was pastoring his first church.

It was early in our marriage that I found out about the Deaconess program at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Indiana.

In a pamphlet from the Lutheran Deaconess Association I learned that through:

  • theological study,
  • hands-on ministry experiences,
  • and being in community with other Deaconesses and Deaconess students,

I could become a trained church-worker!

The pamphlet also talked about a variety of settings (churches, social service agencies, hospitals, etc) in which a Deaconess could serve. I read that regardless of the setting, the common bond among Deaconesses is a “servant’s heart,” the willingness to love and serve others as Jesus loves and serves us.

The more I read about the Deaconess program, the more I knew this was a fit for me.

Becoming a Deaconess was the perfect blending of everything I felt called to do:

  • Serving God in and through the church,
  • Making a difference even beyond the local congregation,
  • Studying and teaching theology and God’s Word,
  • Not being required to be a pastor to do the above!

There were some logistics involved with being able to enter the Deaconess program, but eventually I got in! Then I got my Lutheran theology major, did my required practical ministry experiences, and lived into the “sisterhood” of Deaconesses and Deaconess students around me.

Finally, on August 19, 2001, at our second church in Indiana, I was officially consecrated as a Lutheran Deaconess. Between the beautiful worship service, the hog roast, and the family and friends who came from out of state, it was a grand celebration. It was both the end of a long-awaited goal and the beginning of a whole new journey.

What about you? Have you ever had a vision for something you wanted to do but you didn’t see a way to do it? What obstacles have you overcome to do or be what you felt was meant for you?